It’s the end of 2013 already! This was a great year for women around the world, but here are 13 who will put whatever you did to shame…
Malala Yousafzai, The Human Rights Heroine
Why She Rocked: While never having heard her name was a common thing in America prior to 2013, Malala Yousafzai dominated the news, Internet and newsstands this year. Malala is an international activist in the rights to educate women under Taliban rule and around the world. Now, how many 16-year-olds have that acclaim?!
From the Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan, Malala and all other girls were banned from attending school by the ruling Taliban. In 2009, 12-year-old Malala, using a pseudonym, blogged for the BBC about life in the valley, the Taliban and her educational views. In 2010, the New York Times picked up Malala’s blogging and made a documentary about her life, which led to a Pakistani military intervention to block the film.
Everything came crumbling down in October 2012, when one day a Taliban assassin shot Malala in the head and neck as she rode home on her school bus. She was immediately sent to a local hospital and was transported to the United Kingdom for further treatment and rehab once stabilized. Once news spread of this travesty, an Islamic fatwa was put out against the Taliban assassins, prompting the Taliban reiterating its intent to kill Malala and her father. Malala’s bravery and educational activism has lead her to fame, and rightly so. Her book, I Am Malala, was released in October of 2013.
Wendy Davis, The Filibuster Femme
Why She Rocked: Lawyer and Democratic senator Wendy Davis rocked her way to filibuster fame in 2013 in some pretty awesome sneakers. On June 25th, Wendy Davis stood before the Texas state senate for 11 straight hours fighting a strict abortion bill in Texas, the bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Intending to stand and filibuster until midnight, Davis fell three hours short of her goal when Republicans of the senate argued that she went off topic… puh-leeese. There was a vote on whether or not she could continue, and the tally was YES. Unfortunately, the bill still passed. The leader of the senate said, “Wendy Davis won the battle, Rick Perry (Republican governor) won the war.” She intends to run for governor in 2014.
Pussy Riot, The Russian Rioters
Why They Rocked: As we approach the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, things are rocky, to say the least, in Russia. Pussy Riot, a group of about 11 women, ranging from 20-33 years old, are a “Russian, feminist, protest, punk-rock group” who have been dominating the news and Internet. And rightly so! Clad in brightly colored ski masks, Pussy Riot use unusual public locations (orthodox churches, monuments, etc.) for their guerilla performances, which are edited into music videos and put online. They advocate for feminism, LGBT rights and against the Russian Orthodox Church and “dictator” Vladamir Putin. Two members of the band, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism (unlawful behavior; rioting, bullying, vandalism) in March 2012 and slapped with a two-year jail sentence. The other member of Pussy Riot fled Russia in fear. Things really hit the fan in Russia in September 2013, when Nadya went on a hunger strike to protest the violation of basic human rights behind bars. Having not eaten for five days, she was put in the prison hospital. Earlier this month, Putin publicly said the two women were to be freed under amnesty in March 2014, yet all believed it would be sooner due to the fact that both had small children. And lo and behold, they were both released on December 23, 2013.
Deborah Cohan, The Dancing Cancer Dame
Why She Rocked: I hope the viral video of a woman and her nurses dancing to Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” put a smile on your face like it did on mine! That woman is Deborah Cohan, an OB/GYN in San Francisco and mother of two, who requested to make a dancing video in the OR right before going under for a double mastectomy. Not only did she do a merry jig to the dance hit, but she requested her friends and family to make Beyoncé dancing videos that she could watch during her recovery! Deborah Cohan can teach us all something, seize the day and DANCE!
Megyn Kelly, The Right Winger Who Got It Right… Once
Why She Rocked: No, I don’t agree with everything she says, but Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly seriously rocked it when she put pundits Lou Dobbs and Erik Erikson in their place on air. After Dobbs and Erikson made sexist comments about women in the workplace, ON AIR, including “working moms are bad for kids and marriage”, “males are naturally dominant” Kelly piped up and put a look of shock on their faces by retaliating with “ what makes you dominant and me submissive? And who died and made you scientist-in-chief?”
Janet Yellen, The First Fed Femme
Nationality: American, New York
Why She Rocked: It’s hard to believe, in 2013, there are still some positions in government that women have yet to hold. The chairman of the Federal Reserve is just one of them! I must admit, I never really knew what the Federal Reserve was before, but I soon learned that it’s been the United States’ central banking system since 1913. At age 67, economist and professor Janet Yellen became President Obama’s nominee to replace Ben Bernake as the chair of the Federal Reserve – the first woman to hold the position.
Leticia Van de Putte, The Applause Patron
Nationality: American, Washington
Why She Rocked: Wendy Davis has officially given Texas senators a lot to live up to. After her filibuster suspension, another Texas Democratic senator, Leticia Van de Putte, questioned Republican Texas Senate chairman Robert Duncan publicly on the senate floor after her comments were ignored. “Did the president [of the Texas state senate] hear me or did the president hear me and refuse to recognize me? At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” These statements led to a ten minute standing ovation from the state senate gallery.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, The Liberian Lady
Why She Rocked: When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took the presidency of Liberia in 2005 (and again in 2011), she had a bit of a mess on her hands, especially in regards to a rise in violence against women following the country’s two civil wars. After the end of the first war in 1996, a survey of 205 women revealed that 49% experienced at least one type of sexual or physical violence by a soldier, while 17% had been beaten, tied up or detained by an armed guard and 32% had been strip searched. A further 15% had been raped, sexually assaulted or involved in sexual coercion. In a 2003 survey of 1,000 women further showed that 75% experienced some form of violence, including but not limited to rape, gang rape, child rape, public strip searches or being forced into sexual slavery.
In those civil war years, women were forced into the front lines of war as soldiers, without any training. If they refused, they were beaten, raped and killed. Johnson-Sirleaf, in 2005, became the first elected female head of state in her home country, one in which 85% of people are living below the poverty line and the cultural norms still include arranged marriage and female circumcision (in 2007, 52% of women were circumcised). In 2013, the Indira Gandhi prize was given to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for her efforts in international peace and promoting (and achieving!) a rise in school enrollment, women’s access to education, health care, justice and property in Liberia. The prize is given in India by the Indian president and is just as highly regarded as a Nobel prize. Past recipients include UNICEF, Maya Angelou, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Angela Merkel and Mikhail Gorbachev. Coming from a country where women cook, clean and tend to the children and it is not seen as “work”, Elle Johnson-Sirleaf certainly rocked it in 2013.
Beyoncé, Just Queen Bey
Why She Rocked: Do we really need any more reasons Beyoncé rocked it beyond than the sheer fact that she is Queen Bey? Well, on the night of December 13, 2013 she did it. She blew all of our minds once again, but this time… with no notice. I think we all nearly had a heart attack when Queen Bey dropped her 5th studio album, Beyoncé, with NO NOTICE. No publicity, no advertising. The visual album consisted of 14 tracks, each with an accompanying short video. The thing nearly broke the Internet, reeling in 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours.
Jennifer Lawrence, The Dream BFF
Why She Rocked: 2013 was the year we all had one thing in common: we all wanted to be BFFs with Jennifer Lawrence. Yeah, yeah, she was voted one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Elle‘s most powerful woman in show business and Askmen.com’s #1 most desirable woman. But most of all, she won all of our hearts with her interview and red carpet antics. Catching Fire was supremely awesome, her new pixie haircut made the international news, she earned acclaim and nominations for American Hustle, became the face of Dior, won an Oscar for best actress (the second youngest to do so), and in September it was announced she would be starring in East of Eden. You rock, J.Law!
Laverne Cox, The Transcending Transgender
Why She Rocked: We all KNOW the entire cast of Orange Is The New Black absolutely rocked our Netflix accounts in 2013. Well, there is one cast member who stands out: Laverne Cox. Cox, as transgender firefighter Sophia Burset who’s in prison for credit card theft, is breaking barriers for transgender individuals. As a writer for The Huffington Post on transgender rights and life, Cox is a LGBT advocate that I very much respect.
Gloria Steinem, The Honored Heroine
Why She Rocked: At age 79, Gloria Steinem, a former “girl writer” who helped found New York Magazine, might have earned one of her biggest honors in 2013: the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. As a writer in the 1960s, Steinem was told that she “writes like a man” by her male colleagues, but in 1963 she became a legit journalist in their eyes by going undercover as a Playboy bunny and writing an exposé.
In 1969, Steinem became what we know her as today: an activist. She found this passion and life path while reporting on an abortion rally in lower Manhattan. When she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, Obama said she was “inspiring us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow” and “lasting political and social change in America and abroad”. The list of other Medal of Freedom recipients is LONG and stunning, but some women included Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Madeline Albright, Sandra Day O’Connor, Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher and MANY other amazing and notable women.
Fun Fact: Gloria Steinem is Christian Bale’s stepmother – yep, Batman.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Supreme Same Sex Marriage Officiate
Nationality: American, Brooklyn
Why She Rocked: In 2013, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has served since 1963, did something many Americans never thought they would see happen: she officiated a same-sex marriage – the first Supreme Court Justice to do so. In Washington DC on August 13, 2013, Ginsburg married her friends Michael Kaiser (Kennedy Center chairman) and John Roberts (Commodity Futures Trading Commission). As a liberal, Ginsburg is the most likely judge to do such an amazing act; she is only the SECOND woman and first Jewish woman in the Supreme Court.